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liferaft is an JavaScript implementation of the Raft consensus algorithm.


The liferaft module is distributed through npm and is compatible with browserify as well as node.js. You can install this module using:

npm install --save liferaft

Table Of Contents


In all examples we assume that you've imported the liferaft module as following:

'use strict';
var LifeRaft = require('liferaft')
  , raft = new Raft('address', { /* optional options */});

Please note that the instructions for Node.js and browser are exactly the same as we assume that your code will be compiled using a Browserify based system. The only major difference is that you probably don't need to configure a commit and append log (but this of course, fully optional).

The LifeRaft library is quite dumb by default. We try to be as lean and extendible as possible so you, as a developer, have complete freedom on how you want to implement Raft in your architecture. This also means that we ship this library without any build in transport. This allows you to use it with your existing technology stack and environment. If you want to use SharedWorkers as transport in the browser? Awesome, you can do that. Want to use it on node? There are literally thousands of different transport libraries that you can use.


There are a couple of default options that you can configure in the constructor of your Raft:

  • address A unique address of the node that we just created. If none is supplied we will generate a random UUID.
  • heartbeat The heartbeat timeout. Make sure that this value is lower then your minimum election timeout and take message latency in consideration when specifying this and the minimum election value.
  • election min Minimum election timeout.
  • election max Maximum election timeout.
  • threshold Threshold for when the heartbeat and latency is to close to the minimum election timeout.
  • Log: An Log compatible constructor we which use for state and data replication.

The timeout values can be configured with either a number which represents the time milliseconds or a human readable time string such as 10 ms. The heartbeat timeouts are used to detect a disconnection from the LEADER process if no message has been received within the given timeout we assume its dead that we should be promoted to master. The election timeout is the time it may take to reach a consensus about the master election process. If this times out, we will start another re-election.

var raft = new Raft({
  'address': 'tcp://localhost:8089',
  'election min': '200 millisecond',
  'election max': '1 second'

As you might have noticed we're using two different styles of passing in the address to the raft instance, as address property in the options and as first argument in the constructor.


The liferaft module is an EventEmitter at it's core and is quite chatty about the events it emits.

Event Description
term change The term has changed.
leader change We're now following a newly elected leader.
state change Our state/role changed.
heartbeat timeout Heartbeat timeout, we're going to change to candidate.
data Emitted by you, so we can work with the data.
vote We've received a vote request.
leave Node has been removed from the cluster.
join Node has been added to the cluster.
end This Raft instance has ended.
initialize The node has been fully initialized.
error An error happened while doing.. Things!
threshold The heartbeat timeout is getting close to election timeout.
leader Our state changed to leader.
follower Our state changed to follower.
candidate Our state changed to candidate.
stopped Our state changed to stopped.
heartbeat The leader is about to send a heartbeat message.
commit A command has been saved to the majority of node's logs

Please note that the following properties are exposed on the constructor not on the prototype.


This is an array that contains the names of the states. It can be used to create a human readable string from your current state.

console.log(LifeRaft.states[raft.state]); // FOLLOWER


These are the values that we set as state. If you instance is a leader it's state will be set to LifeRaft.LEADER.

The rest of these properties are exposed on the LifeRaft prototype


Check the type of the given thing. This returns the correct type for arrays, objects, regexps and all the things. It's used internally in the library but might be useful for you as user as well. The function requires one argument which would be the thing who's type you need figure out.

raft.type([]); // array
raft.type({}); // object


Check if we've reached our quorum (a.k.a. minimum amount of votes requires for a voting round to be considered valid) for the given amount of votes. This depends on the amount of joined nodes. It requires one argument which is the amount of responses that have been received.

raft.quorum(5); // true
raft.quorum(2); // false


Returns the majority that needs to be reached for our quorum.

raft.majority(); // 4

LifeRaft#indefinitely(attempt, fn, timeout)

According to section 5.3 of the Raft paper it's required that we retry sending the RPC messages until they succeed. This function will run the given attempt function until the received callback has been called successfully and within our given timeout. If this is not the case we will call the attempt function again and again until it succeeds. The function requires 3 arguments:

  1. attempt, The function that needs to be called over and over again until he calls the receiving callback successfully and without errors as we assume an error first callback pattern.
  2. fn, Completion callback, we've successfully executed the attempt.
  3. timeout, Time the attempt is allowed to take.
raft.indefinitely(function attemp(next) {
  dosomething(function (err, data) {
    // if there is no error then we wil also pass the data to the completion
    // callback.
    return next(err, data);
}, function done(data) {
  // Successful execution.
}, 1000);

LifeRaft#packet(type, data)

Generate a new packet object that can be transfered to a client. The method accepts 2 arguments:

  1. type, Type of packet that we want to transfer.
  2. data, Data that should be transfered.
var packet = raft.packet('vote', { foo: 'bar' });

These packages will contain the following information:

  • state If we are a LEADER, FOLLOWER or CANDIDATE
  • term Our current term.
  • address The address of this node.
  • leader The address of our leader.
  • last If logs are enabled we also include the last committed term and index.

And of course also the type which is the type you passed this function in and the data that you want to send.

LifeRaft#message(who, what, when)

The message method is somewhat private but it might also be useful for you as developer. It's a message interface between every connected node in your cluster. It allows you to send messages the current leader, or only the followers or everybody. This allows you easily build other scale and high availability patterns on top of this module and take advantage of all the features that this library is offering. This method accepts 2 arguments:

  1. who, The messaging pattern/mode you want it use. It can either be:
  • LifeRaft.LEADER: Send message to the current leader.
  • LifeRaft.FOLLOWER: Send to everybody who is not a leader.
  • LifeRaft.CHILD: Send to every child in the cluster (everybody).
  • <node address>: Find the node based on the provided address.
  1. what, The message body you want to use. We high suggest using the .packet method for constructing cluster messages so additional state can be send.
  2. when, Optional completion callback for when all messages are send.

This message does have a side affect it also calculates the latency for sending the messages so we know if we are dangerously close to our threshold.

LifeRaft#join(address, write)

Add a new raft node to your cluster. All parameters are optional but normally you would pass in the name or address with the location of the server you want to add. The write method is only optional if you are using a custom instance that already has the write method defined.

var node = raft.join('', function write(packet) {
  // Write the message to the actual server that you just added.

As seen in the example above it returns the node that we created. This Node is also a Raft instance. When the node is added to the cluster it will emit the join event. The event will also receive a reference to the node that was added as argument:

raft.on('join', function join(node) {
  console.log(node.address); //


Now that you've added a new node to your raft cluster it's also good to know that you remove them again. This method either accepts the address of the node that you want to remove from the cluster or the returned node that was returned from the LifeRaft.join method.


Once the node has been removed from the cluster it will emit the leave event. The event will also receive a reference to the node that was removed as argument:

raft.on('leave', function leave(node) {
  console.log(node.address); //


Private method, use with caution

This promotes the Node from FOLLOWER to CANDIDATE and starts requesting votes from other connected nodes. When the majority has voted in favour of this node, it will become LEADER.



This method is also aliased as .destroy.

This signals that the node wants to be removed from the cluster. Once it has successfully removed it self, it will emit the end event.

raft.on('end', function () {
  console.log('Node has shut down.');


Save a json command to the log. The command will be added to the log and then replicated to all the follower nodes. Once the majority of nodes have received and stored the command. A commit event will be triggered so that the command can be used.

raft.command({name: 'Jimi', surname: 'Hendrix'});
raft.on('commit', function (command) {
  console.log(, command.surname);


LifeRaft uses the same pattern as Backbone.js to extend it's prototypes. It exposes an .extend method on the constructor. When you call this method it will return a fresh LifeRaft constructor with the newly applied prototypes and properties. So these extends will not affect the default instance. This extend method accepts 2 arguments.

  1. Object with properties that should be merged with the prototype.
  2. Object with properties that should be merged with the constructor.
var LifeBoat = LifeRaft.extend({
  foo: function foo() {
    return 'bar';

Log Replication

LifeRaft uses Levelup for storing the log that is replicated to each node. Log replication is optional and so the log constructor needs to be included in the options when creating a raft instance. You can use any leveldown compatible database to store the log. LifeRaft will default to using leveldown. A unique path is required for each node's log.

const Log = require('liferaft/log');
const raft = new Raft({
  adapter: require('leveldown'),
  path: './db/log1'


The library ships without transports by default. If we we're to implement this it would have made this library way to opinionated. You might want to leverage and existing infrastructure or library for messaging instead of going with our solution. There are only two methods you need to implement an initialize method and an write method. Both methods serve different use cases so we're going to take a closer look at both of them.


var LifeBoat = LifeRaft.extend({
  socket: null,
  write: function write(packet, callback) {
    if (!this.socket) this.socket = require('net').connect(this.address);
    // More code here ;-)

There are a couple of things that we assume you implement in the write method:

  • Message encoding The packet that you receive is an JSON object but you have to decide how you're going transfer that over the write in the most efficient way for you.
  • message resending The Raft protocol states the messages that you write should be retried until indefinitely (Raft 5.3). There are already transports which do this automatically for you but if your's is missing this, the LifeRaft#indefinitely() is specifically written for this.


When you extend the LifeRaft instance you can assign a special initialize method. This method will be called when our LifeRaft code has been fully initialized and we're ready to initialize your code. The invocation type depends on the amount of arguments you specify in the function.

  • synchronous: Your function specifies less then 2 arguments, it will receive one argument which is the options object that was provided in the constructor. If no options were provided it will be an empty object.
  • asynchronous: Your function specifies 2 arguments, just like the synchronous execution it will receive the passed options as first argument but it will also receive a callback function as second argument. This callback should be executed once you're done with setting up your transport and you are ready to receive messages. The function follows an error first pattern so it receives an error as first argument it will emit the error event on the constructed instance.
var LifeBoat = LifeRaft.extend({
  socket: null,
  initialize: function initialize(options) {
    this.socket = new CustomTransport(this.address);
// Or in async mode:
var LifeBoat = LifeRaft.extend({
  server: null,
  initialize: function initialize(options, fn) {
    this.server = require('net').createServer(function () {
      // Do stuff here to handle incoming connections etc.
    var next = require('one-time')(fn);
    this.server.once('listening', next);
    this.server.once('error', next);

After your initialize method is called we will emit the initialize event. If your initialize method is asynchronous we will emit the event after the callback has been executed. Once the event is emitted we will start our timeout timers and hope that we will receive message in time.





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